PORTLAND, Ore. (TheStreet) -- Why would you take the person you love to a fast-food joint on Valentine's Day? Because all the novices are sucking up reservations everywhere else and paying a premium for dry roast chicken on the "special" Valentine's Day menu.This is the shoebox well-intentioned suitors have been backed into since Esther Howland and her gang of greeting card industry thugs grabbed hold of Valentine's Day in the late 19th century and DeBeers and its diamond-company cronies made every dinner on that holiday a game of high-stakes poker. Now it's an $18 billion industry that trails only Thanksgiving ($30.5 billion) and Christmas ($135 billion) in holiday spending, according to IBISWorld. That's almost $3 billion more than what's spent on Mother's Day, which means most folks love that person they met on winter break in Breckenridge more than they love their own mother. For shame. Perhaps its only fair that those poor, misguided saps get squeezed for their Valentine's supper. Restaurant ratings guide Zagat found that spending on a dinner out jumps on Valentine's Day to more than $146 for a typical dinner for two -- from $70. Overall, the National Retail Federation expected Valentine's Day dinner spending to jump from $3.36 billion in 2011 to $3.58 billion last year. It didn't help that last year's Valentine's Day diners decided to treat the holiday like an Olympic-style challenge. Last year, restaurant reservation site OpenTable found that 93% of the Valentine's Day reservation holders they surveyed planned to either match last year's dinner bill or increase it. Roughly 54% planned to spend $101 to $200, while 10% plan to go well beyond $200. This is how the place around the corner from your house that requires you to lean out the driver's side window and shout your order into a speaker becomes a viable Valentine's Day option. We took a hard, soul-searching look at the lovestruck American dining landscape and found a few establishments that will try to sell fast and familiar fare as romantic dinner this Valentine's Day:
Jason Notte. >To follow the writer on Twitter, go to http://twitter.com/notteham. >To submit a news tip, send an email to: firstname.lastname@example.org.